Sunday, November 22, 2009

Silent Valley National Park– In praise of the unsung heroes

The silver jubilee celebration of the Silent Valley National Park was carried out with great fanfare with the central environment minister Jairam Ramesh, and Kerala forest minister Binoy Viswom taking centre stage of the affairs. Environmentalists and activists such as Madhav Gadgil, M K Prasad, A Achuthan, U K Gopalan, Gopalakrishnan Nair, K Sreedharan, V S Vijayan, Anand Parthasarathy, Satish Chandran Nair, Justice K Sukumaran, Namisvayam and V M N Namboodiripad were honoured at the function. All the awards were well deserved and totally unexceptionable. Unfortunately amidst the camaraderie, mutual back slapping, and the evident desire of some persons to earn brownie points,the authorities forgot about one watcher who had put in yeomen service to the National Park. He is late Hamsa a figure etched in the minds of anyone who has visited the Silent Valley in the early years. All the men who were felicitated at the function owe something to this gentleman of the wilderness who had boundless love for Silent Valley. There was not even a passing mention about Hamsa . I am dismayed and chagrined by the turn of events.

My memories of Hamsa are etched in gold. He was a man who loved Silent Valley and who always referred to Silent Valley as Our Forest. His abiding interest was evident in every word he uttered. His outdoor expertise is legendary and I can personally vouch for them. I was the first assistant Wildlife Warden of the National Park. I am pained to see that Hamsa's name do not figure anywhere. His name has gone in to limbo. He should have been given posthumous award for his services to the conservation fraternity. In the western world he would have been a hero.

I find fault with the forest department and the environmentalists who bask in the glory, for this sorry state of affairs. This has always been the bane of the department. The frontline men who put in great service are always ignored left to fend for themselves. I have seen the incredible heights of excellence to which these poorly paid guys rise with proper motivation. My heart goes out to the unsung heroes.